Piddle Brewery Stocking Filler (500ml bottle, 4.5% ABV)

Beer froth is a funny thing. Some beers – like Guinness, most lagers and lots of the Belgian stuff – go for a big thick head. In the North sparklers are fitted to hand-pumps to achieve a similar effect. (I’ve even met a woman who carries around her own sparkler so she can get a ‘proper’ pint of beer in the South.)

But southern beers are often more restrained, with a froth that quickly subsides to a little island of bubbles. The advantage of this is that you can see patterns in it. This one, for example, looks like an emu plucking at its feathers. (Yes, this is my first beer of the day, since you ask.) It sits atop a beer that Piddle describe as ruby red, but to my eyes it’s pretty close to black.

According to the label, Stocking Filler is a spicy ale, but it’s a restrained sort of spice, which makes for an easy-drinking beer. It certainly doesn’t scream ‘Christmas!’ in your face like a carol singer who’s had too much sherry. I suspect the spiciness comes solely from the hops (First Gold and Cascade). There’s also a pleasing dark malt character typical of the English strong ale – rich, but not straying into stout territory.

It’s quite light-bodied for such a dark beer and ends with a crisp, bitter finish. Though it’s made specially for the holiday season, you could easily drink this all year round. You’d be happy to find a bottle or two of this in your stocking come Christmas Day, but don’t get confused: anyone filling a stocking with actual piddle will be getting an ASBO.
Written by Richard Salsbury

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